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Rock on Kalimpong

INDIA | Tuesday, 22 December 2015 | Views [278]

This evening I am peeved. Yet another email from my conveyancing solicitor (I am selling my flat) with news of yet more enquiries from the buyer's solicitors. I'm not fond of any of them at the minute.

ANYWAY, today I stumbled upon an event held by the indiginous Lepcha peoples in the Kalimpong stadium that penultimated (a new word?) in a decent version of Adele's 'We could have had it all' if that is indeed the title of that song, that had me rocking along in my own small 'footy' way. I probably caught about an hour or so of the event, mostly local dances and song, all of which had me smiling. 

This was sandwiched between another visit to Thongsa Gompa, a visit to Dardo Rimpche's school and a treck down Ninth Mile to find the site of Sangarakshita's hermitage.

I had spent a few hours at Thongsa Gompa yesterday and although I had been unable to enter the shrine room I had made several tours of the outside, turning the prayer wheels that lined all four walls, and partaken of tea and a goody bag. Apparently it was a monthly festival day called something like Chen ten (?) where this sort of thing happens. I had, in any case, enjoyed the hospitality of the people, including shaking an old lady's hand, and the beauty of the gompa grounds.

Previously I had made the long steep ascent and then brief steep descent to Thirpai Choling Gompa where a different ritual was taking place. In this case it was to mark the 49th day after the passing away of someone. Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the Gompa, this time internal and external, and the kindness I received there. I was taken to a museum, where I saw a picture of Sangharakshita taken at a Buddhist Conference in New Delhi promoting Tibetan culture and vegetarianism, and was insistently pointed out several items, including a model of the gompa made out of 20,000 odd matches. I also enjoyed the usual spectacle of young monks playiing football, joking arm in arm and gernerally having fun.

That was yesterday. Today I still could not get into the shrine room of Thongsa Gompa so contented myself with another circumambulation of the building, spinning prayer wheels, a brief nod to an ancient monk and a fairly hasty exit. I then  followed excellent instructions to find Dhardo Rimpoche's School on Bhagdara Road (thanks ABD again). Unfortunately school was out, the office was closed and anyone who was in did not hear my very English 'Excuse me's'.. I could be more assertive. I did, however, see something of the school, pictures of Dhardo and Bhante (Sangharakshita) and a framed and signed photo of a handful of order members, amongst them Subhuti.

If that was disapointing, not least for my lack of assertiveness, the Lepcha event went some way to making up for it. I also had better fortune in finding Bhante's old vihara, which included my first lift, pillion, on a scooter for the last 800 metres. Once at Holumba Haven, the reincarnation of Sangharakshita's vihara, I was also warmly welcomed, shown around the old hermitage and small shrine room and offered and accepted a cup of tea. I then mostly listened as Karma, the owner (?), a copy of 'Facing Mount Kanchenjunga' on the table between us, talked at length about Bhante, a conflict about the publication of some story, and his theory, backed by sources he assured me, as to why the Buddha really did go forth.

Then, back to Kalimpong, this time minus scooter ride, coffee and cake at the 'one Cup Cafe', this time with little going on in the street beneath me, an excellent and cheap vegetable thali from the Kalash restaurant and from there back to my hotel to witness a profusion of fire works, banging of drums and shouting. This seems a pretty much everyday part of Kalimpong life.

I continue to enjoy Kalimpong. I have loved sitting on my balcony and watching the prayer flags flutter in the breeze and to feel the said breeze on my face and up my nostrils, sometimes crisp and clear, sometimes acrid and smokey, sometimes dusty, sometimes spicy depending on what it passes on its way. I shall be here a few more days, spend a little time researching Sikkim and then head on for there. After that I'm thinking back to Calcutta, thence to Puri and from there to Nagpur. It would be good to have a bit more company, fine as many moments have been on my own.

Love to you all.


Tags: festivals, gompas, indiginous people, viharas

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